Future Farmers – Njabulo Gumede
For Njabulo Gumede the road to becoming a successful dairy manager was tough. As one of the Future Farmers shining stars, he explains that it was a desire to better himself that led to his career in farming.
Growing up in the Vryheid township with his grandmother was quite a challenge for Gumede, but he was an active child and participated in a lot of sport. As a sporting youngster he got the chance to travel with the sports teams and see how other teams played, and also how they lived in the wealthy suburbs and this planted a seed in him. He realised that if he stayed in the township he would end up like other township teenagers – many of whom ended up taking the path to drugs and crime.
Gumede asked his parents who worked to send him to an agricultural school so that he could study away from the vices of the local township. His athletic prowess at volleyball, soccer and cricket were to be his saving grace as he was able to use the discipline he used to achieve in sport, to apply to his new schooling environment as a boarder.
“It was hard to be away from my granny and my siblings but I knew that I wanted to have a better life. My interest in farming grew when I saw that when my grandfather retired he invested in some cows. He told me that even if you work for many years in a company you still can retire and not have much money but if you buy cows they can breed and keep earning you money. I looked after his cows and I became very fond of them. I learnt that when you sell one cow you get money and if you look after your cows you are looking after your money. But it is important to look after your investment so you must feed them well and keep them healthy.”
Njabulo attended the Zakhe Agricultural College and did well at his studies. But he knew that after graduating he would need to find a way into the farming industry. He heard about Future Farmers through a fellow student and applied for the programme.
Before he was allowed to go overseas he was placed on a dairy farm in Underberg to get experience. This was many months of hard labour and he recalls that getting up at 4am in the freezing cold to milk cows was sometimes agony.
“I had to keep my goal in mind all the time. I had no other life but my job. I was lucky because my boss Steve Roberts saw potential and nurtured me. After two years or so I was selected to go to California to a dairy farm. I was really excited.”
The year abroad changed Gumede in many ways he learnt many things about getting on with people from other cultures, about how farming methods differed, and he grew in self confidence.
“I worked with Columbians, Brazilians and many other people and I found that I had many skills they did not. I did miss home a lot.” He was asked to play basketball as his height was a major advantage.
Coming back home with his experience was great for him and he is forever thankful to Judy Stuart and her Future Farmers programme. He is now managing a dairy farm in Creighton and he is well respected by his co-workers.
He believes the key to becoming a successful farmer is learning all the time and being prepared to do the smallest jobs. “It’s about showing the workers that you are willing to do the dirty jobs and not expecting them to do it because you think they are less than you.”
Gumede said his overseas experience taught him that there will always be problems, but that a real farmer must find solutions. He said: “Judy Stuart is a superwoman. She is like a mother to us and she is a very fair person. If she gives you a command you must listen because she doesn’t take nonsense. However, she is also very kind. “
Gumede says that the Future farmers programme has taught him that farming is a life-long commitment and it is not simply about making money. “Farmers are the caretakers of the land and we are the ones who must feed the people not sit back and watch.”